Maoh: Juvenile Remix 7

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2011 – 10 volumes

This volume was REALLY GREAT. This is one of those short, really low profile Shounen Sunday series that I feel like nobody but me reads. I’m shelving this next to Law of Ueki and Nora: The Last Chronicles of Devildom. All of them are a low-key kind of awesome, but awesome all the same. Maoh is the best of all of them, though. It’s a thriller, and a bit more cerebral than the usual Shounen Sunday series.

And as if to prove my point about how classy it is, the volume opens with an excerpt from a Goethe poem. A very appropriate one.

This volume has the long-awaited confrontation between Ando and Inukai. Inukai’s meeting place is revealed, and Ando limps over there knowing he has to stop it. There’s an insane crowd between him and Inukai, however, and a police crackdown and some necromancy get in his way. But Ando perseveres. He really gives it his all.

Really, this scene could not have played out any differently than what I expected. And it’s a really great thing that it did. It’s much better than I could have ever imagined. Both Inukai and Ando’s points of view are shared. I really don’t want to spoil anything, because the ending to this is fantastic. You have to read it yourself.

Then part two begins, and the perspective switches to Ando’s cheerful brother Junya. Junya is no longer very cheerful, and he seems to have gained the ability to never lose at rock-paper-scissors, or perhaps at betting in general. He chases down Semi and his boss, and there’s a rather impressive game of Russian Roulette involved in getting information. This is a completely new direction for the story, and the plot enters the underworld as information is hunted. It’s… strange, and different from part one, but I definitely want to see where all this is going.

I’ve always been slow at reading this series, but maybe it’s for the best. I don’t want to get too burned out on it, and staggering the volumes only reminds me of how good it is when I read one like this. I could not be happier with part one, and I encourage those looking for a dark and serious thriller to check it out. I especially like the very light supernatural touch. It’s strange that things like Ando’s ventriloquism still work in such a realistic plot. Realistic enough to really pull off the fact that Inukai is successfully brainwashing everyone. Part two is promising, and I’m definitely curious to see how the climax of the series could possibly top what happened here.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 6

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2011 – 10 volumes

The last volume of this just came out! I need to catch up. It is very, very good, and I think not many people are reading it.

One of the things I’ve always had a bit of a problem with was the fact that Ando has a “special power.” The power of this series is that it does such a good job illustrating crowd mentality, and just what a horrible and ugly thing it really is. Inukai seems to believe in his cause, and he is charismatic enough that he’s won over many followers who will go to great lengths to see that their town isn’t destroyed with a new shopping center. Ando disagrees, and finds it disturbing that Inukai’s followers are willing to go to abusive lengths to ostracize anyone having to do with the construction, including the families of the tiniest peons that work for the company that owns the site.

This is a fine story in and of itself. At that level, this volume advances it by showing us yet another example of Inukai’s followers abusing their power, but this time it backfires. Rather than anyone learning a lesson, it only incites them to near-riot levels of excitement to their cause, and they blame the backfire on how evil the corporation they’re fighting really is. Inukai is hosting a massive rally in the city, but the location is not made known. Ando has to get there to try and stop Inukai from riling up the city’s population any further.

And with just that, this is already an intriguing series, much different than most shounen manga. It’s very dark and cerebral, and both the art and writing do a good job of conveying just how terrifying the mob really is.

But the “special powers” are there as well. I’m dubious of the necessity. But this volume… this volume does amazing things with it. As good as the mob mentality plotline was here, it’s the special powers storyline that really won me over. And it’s more about using your head and not giving up than it is about the powers. I know most shounen manga are about using your head and not giving up, but here it really matters, because it is simply Ando and a man that wants to kill him, and Ando will certainly die if he lets his guard down around this man.

The man also has a “special power” that he’s using to try and kill Ando. Ando’s ventriloquism is merely a parlor trick, but this man can kill with his power. So Ando has to try and determine the limits of the man’s power, and keep himself in areas where he knows he can keep an advantage. It is always a near thing. There is never any doubt that Ando is scared nearly witless through this entire volume, and he has no problem admitting this. A big part of his battle is not panicking so that he can keep a clear head and one step ahead of his attacker.

The last eleven pages of this volume are ones that I will never, ever forget. They are absolutely triumphant, and they make a huge impact.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 5

Megumi Osuga / Kotaro Isaka – Viz – 2011 – 10 volumes

I’m just so torn with every volume of this series. On one hand, I get a little tired of the main character witnessing the madness of crowds, then taking several chapters to decide he’s going to be different. On the other hand, it’s a manga about the madness of crowds and how to corral and control them. It’s extraordinarily interesting in that way, and worth a read.

On that note, the ventriloquism that Ando can perform really is the perfect weapon to fight Inukai with. He demonstrates just how wickedly effective it can be in this volume, and it’s by far been the best scene in the manga so far. The way Ando dissects the crowd mentality to come to his conclusion, and use his weapon effectively, is also quite fascinating.

The mobs themselves in this series are also quite terrifying. They really are driven by revenge, and no logic or morals stand in their way. In this volume, they burn down a house with two elderly teachers in it because the teachers were seen eating with the son of the man who was trying to develop the town. It’s brutal stuff.

Elsewhere, assassins fight. One of them… well, is “known as a ‘suicider.’ One look into both of my eyes amplifies the inner guilt and futility that rest within every man, thus turning one’s every moment into a lifetime of mental agony.” Basically, if he takes off his eyepatch, with one look, he will drive a person to suicide. It’s so silly, and doesn’t quite fit in with the mood of the series. All the same, he’s effective on Semi, the cocky and unstoppable assassin we’ve seen a lot of so far in this series.

Unfortunately, both Semi and Ando rally themselves into action using lengthy self-motivation monologues, along with a lot of reflection. These slow things down, and are fairly redundant, especially in Ando’s case. They simplify things, and are ruining what is otherwise a really fascinating story. I had a hard time getting into this volume, because I could not bring myself to get through the lengthy scene where Ando sobs his way through the mob setting the fire to the house. I keep giving each volume the benefit of the doubt, thinking that the last volume had the final monologue, that the moment was so decisive and the reflection so long that we certainly have to be getting on with the story now. But they keep appearing.

All the same, the premise and plot are interesting enough that I’m going to keep reading. And hey, maybe the monologues really are finished now, and Ando’s going to start fighting back along with his brother and Semi and his friend. That would be awesome, because it seems like they’re going to put up quite a struggle. I’d love to see them fight back with the crowds that Inukai is so good at controlling. There’s a lot of interesting stuff here, which is why it deserves to be read… I just hope it can lay off the weak character development from here on.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 4

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2011 – 10 volumes

This… this is pretty effective psychological horror. I’m a little bit surprised by how good it’s gotten over the past couple volumes. The special powers part of it seems so silly in comparison to the rest, but it’s actually handled pretty well. After all, without something to fight back with, how would Ando ever convince himself to stand up to Inukai?

There’s a really powerful scene at the beginning of this volume where Inukai decides to accept Ando as his rival, and Inukai shows off just how much influence he really has. This devolves into an action scene, complete with assassin, but the scariest part of the series are these scenes that show just how effective a charismatic leader and mob mentality really are.

The mob mentality carries over into a later story, where the son of the developer Inukai is against transfers to Ando’s school. The boy is at the wrong end of a lot of bullying, and when Ando tries to stand up to him, he sees only a school full of Inukai’s disciples. Again, in the context of the series, this is quite terrifying. It’s difficult to explain without reading, but seeing Ando come upon a group full of impassive, evil faces again and again, and he begs and pleads and yells at them, tries to get them to see the evil in their actions… and then none of them see things any different from what Inukai tells them… it’s pretty scary stuff.

There’s some exposition at the end of the volume, the assassin from a few volumes ago enters the story… some resolve comes for Ando, but nothing good has started happening yet. I’m extremely interested to see how this will start working itself out. I’m a few volumes behind right now, so I plan to rectify that very soon.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 3

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2010 – 10 volumes

On one hand, this series is pretty fatalistic. We’ve got the characters talking about how they are destined to save the world, and pondering how they could possibly make a difference, and one of the themes is that Inukai is either a kind of god or devil, and Ando isn’t sure why he has a special power and why he should or shoudn’t use it to stop Inukai’s goals of… bettering the run-down suburb they live in.

Of course, Inukai is going about it in a nefarious way… but still. This seems like the outcome at the moment, to drive crime out of the neighborhood and stop it from becoming the commercial center the city leaders are planning.

On the other hand, it’s pretty flashy about what it does, and watching Inukai and Ando butt heads is fascinating so far. Inukai has some cheesy lines, but he delivers them so forcefully it’s hard not to be impressed. Their relationship isn’t exactly that of predator/prey, or hero/enemy, either. Inukai sees Ando as an obstacle sent by fate, and takes an almost… carefree attitude on his abilities. I’m very curious as to how far Inukai is willing to back off Ando.

There’s also clearly more to the story than meets the eye… and yet, we aren’t offered a whole lot of insight into what that could be. Is Inukai really going through all this trouble to save his neighborhood? Is that just the first step? Is he the devil that Ando thinks he is? And why is everybody agreeing to help Inukai? Is he really that charismatic? And why do these “special powers” play so small a role in what’s going on? I’m glad they’re downplayed, and at this point, it’s mostly just a device used so that Ando can meddle, and yet it doesn’t give him enough power to really make a difference in things. No, Ando has to draw that strength from MacGuyver.

Later in the book, a bee-girl assassin is introduced, making her the second psycho assassin we’ve seen. It makes me think that will be an ongoing… thing, too, and I wonder how that will tie into whatever is going on here.

This is definitely not a series for everyone, and it hasn’t knocked my socks off yet, but at the same time… it’s pretty engrossing. It’s also interesting that I have literally no idea where the plot is going next, but I’m curious all the same. I’m hooked.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 2

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2010 – 10 volumes

So. I was a little overwhelmed here. Ando, aside from his cool ventriloquism power and his doubts about the Grasshopper vigilante group, turns out to be a little… weak-willed. He doubts, but he seems unwilling to act on his doubts. Granted, that’s a hard thing to do in reality, but in a manga, it’s unusual to see a hero that is so timid. And from the first chapter of volume two, we learn that someone has it in for Ando. Who? Why? The reader isn’t sure, but suddenly, a cocky assassin shows up and starts chasing Ando around town while Grasshopper and the local hero Inukai are out busting up a motorcycle gang.

It’s a little much to take in, but then Ando pauses for a minute. The assassin is bearing down on him, and he’s in a kind of drainage canal. He’s got unclimbable walls behind and to his right, and a river to his left. That leaves only one direction, right? Straight forward, with the assassin bearing down on him.

So Ando takes a minute to think. And then he suddenly remembers his hero MacGyver. What would MacGyver do? Well, he would think, and come up with a clever way out of his situation.

And then he just uses ventriloquism to confuse the assassin and run by.

While the MacGyver reference was wasted here, I’m hoping it comes up later and that Ando excels at nonviolent and complicated solutions to dangerous situations. That would be AMAZING.

Also, this manga had a MacGyver reference in it.

Ando alluded to Inukai being a demon due to his magnetic personality and… brutality, but that doesn’t go anywhere just yet. Inukai is mostly just bad news here, and in addition to brutally wrecking a motorcycle gang, it’s implied that he may be hiring hits. He’s not at all a nice guy, and we don’t have the benefit of seeing him brighten individual lives in this volume to balance it out. We start to see the face on the other side of the complex Inukai is fighting, too, a man named Anderson. Anderson had some shady dealings of his own, but so far, him putting in a shopping complex is much less sinister than Inukai’s warfare.

Also, the casual, friendly, and ruthless assassin that we meet in this volume is an awesome character. He mentions being from out of town, but maybe he’ll come back later. I wish he had been more clearly a good guy.

It still has interesting parts, but they haven’t quite jelled yet. I’m a little less enthusiastic after reading volume two, even with the MacGyver reference, but I’m hoping things start moving again in volume three.


Maoh: Juvenile Remix 1

Kotaro Isaka / Megumi Osuga – Viz – 2010 – 10 volumes

I think the record will show that I am a big fan of demons. When it’s right there in the title, especially in a general-interest Shounen Sunday series, it’s hard for me to pass up. Granted, the premise sounded like it could go either way (leader of a group of vigilantes has unclear motives, main character can make others vocalize his thoughts), but demons always swing my opinion in favor of a series.

So far, this is… strange. A bit noir-ish, and very mysterious. The main character, Ando, has been able to do the ventriloquist thing with people since he was young. He was bullied a lot for claiming he could, and also for being a bit of a weirdo (he tends to slip into “thinking” moods, where he ponders strange subjects very intently). This turned him a bit shy around people, so he tends to hold back whenever he sees bullying situations or other crimes being committed, knowing in his heart that the nail that sticks out gets hammered back down due to all his past teasing.

He then starts to see a man named Inukai around. Inukai does stand up to bullying, and seems to have the nerve to stare said bullies down. Impressed by Inukai, but unsure of his own ability to stand up, Ando follows Inukai to an imminent revenge beating one day and finds out that the hero has just as much violence in him as the worst 40 bullies put together. Then he’s not so much a hero anymore. Ando still has to face his own cowardice, however, when he keeps getting confronted with situations where he should stand up and doesn’t, or where his opinion that things should stop is irrelevant and not very helpful. His ventriloquism ability only goes so far in the savage situations he is continually confronted with, and it sounds like he doubts the good intentions of Inukai of keeping the city safe. By the end of the volume, Ando is fairly certain that Inukai’s intentions are far more evil than they seem.

It is WEIRD. There is just no other way around that. Bullying is looked at in a slightly less sugar-coated way than you typically find. Inukai’s philosophies about standing up for one’s self and following one’s beliefs are the usual fare, but when the victims are students and the bullies are vicious, we see that no amount of going to parents or teachers, or even standing up to the bullies, will really help things. Even when Ando tries to break away from his role as a bystander, trying to encourage those that are being bullied, he is usually called out on the fact that he isn’t going to help the situation any. The victims seem to find their way to Inukai, who brutally takes revenge. And then said vicious bullies wind up as members of his vigilante group, which is why Ando wonders about the methods.

Bullies aren’t the only victims. A man who has plans to industrialize the town has words with Inukai in a public forum, and the next day allegedly commits suicide.

Aside from sizing up the general creepy vibe in the town, nothing directly happens to Ando or anyone around him, Ando merely acts as our window into the strange goings-on of Inukai’s Grasshopper group. The dark, long stares of a mysterious bystander on the last page of the volume suggests he is about to get directly involved, but it’s still unclear, really, what Grasshopper is trying to achieve. I mean, all their actions do suggest it’s merely a safe neighborhood.

Weird stuff, and a lot more interesting than the plot summary made it sound. I’m also very happy to see that demons are not yet playing a direct part. Actually, the vibes I get from this series are a little Dragon Head-ish, except way less intense to start with. I’m curious to see where this strange mix of elements is going to go from here, and what will happen when the action starts.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 527 other followers